MissPres News Roundup 6-25-2010

It’s the last Friday of a hot and steamy Mississippi June, which means it’s time for another news roundup. Things have been hopping out there, so let’s get started.

An update on the ongoing renovations of the “Lil’ Red Schoolhouse” aka the Drew Rosenwald School up in the Delta comes from the newsletter of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation’s Summer 2010 issue:

Renovations to the original structure began in 2001. In a first phase of restoration, contractors replaced the roof of the 28,000 square foot structure, repointed the bricks and stabilized the building.

Thanks to grants from Lowe’s, the Alice Rosenwald Flexible Fund, the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Department of
History and Archives, the original portion of the structure
has finally been restored, which includes an auditorium, a classroom and bathrooms, and completes phase two of restorations. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has
also supported the project.

“I’m excited that we will finally be able to get inside the building,” said Jesse Gresham, Reverend of the Holly Grove Missionary Baptist Church. “The completion of the renovation means progress for the entire community. Lil’ Red will provide a structure to facilitate educational support programs for  students and possibly some education programs to the general public. Also the auditorium can be used as a place to support art and drama in the community.”

The Holly Grove Community Development Corporation will
continue to renovate the remainder of the Lil’ Red building, which includes two wings added in the 1950s. The wings provided a cafeteria and more classrooms. The community hopes the renovation of these wings will allow for more programs to better the lives of the residents of Drew.

Prentiss Institute

Speaking of Rosenwald schools and the Lowe’s/National Trust grant for Rosenwald schools, the 2010 grantees were announced this week, and the Prentiss Institute down in Jefferson Davis County was one of the winners (check out this website to see a great interior photo of the auditorium):

To date, the project is 50% complete after the first phase of work.  The grant funds will be used to finish the restoration completely which includes flooring, electrical work, HVAC, painting and interior and exterior finishing.  The roof and windows were repaired/replaced in Phase I.

Once complete, the building will be used as a community auditorium, meeting place, African-American Museum and Resource Library.

The Prentiss Institute Board of Trustees will manage the restoration project.

As you may remember, Prentiss also has received a Community Heritage Preservation Grant from MDAH in last year’s round, so hopefully this project will be done and the building put back into use in the community very soon. Congratulations, Prentiss Institute!

The Clarion-Ledger reported that a fire last weekend damaged the Capitol Street Church of Christ in Jackson, an interesting side-entrance Gothic-Revival church built in 1947. A follow-up noted that lightning was suspected. It appears that the main damage was to the fellowship hall, while the sanctuary received mostly smoke and heat damage. Let’s hope for a good ending to this story.

According to the Northside Sun (whose website hasn’t been updated in a while for some reason), one of my favorite Modernist buildings in Jackson will be appearing in the movie adaptation of the wildly popular book The Help, which apparently everyone but me has read. I’m referring of course to the best dry cleaners around, Kolbs Cleaners in Fondren, one of the few Mississippi designs of Robert Overstreet, son of N.W. Overstreet, before he left the state in the mid-1950s.

Filming at Kolb’s will likely take place in September. “There will probably be a good three to four hours of filming, which will translate into a 15-minute segment, Green [chief operations officer for Kolb’s] said. . . .

With large black and white [actually aren’t they green and white?] art deco letters running across the top, a large awning covering the driveway, and picture windows at the front and side of the facility, the shop already transports onlookers to another time.

Kolb’s will receive several upgrades in the coming weeks, including washing the yellowish brick facade, having neon lighting added in the windows and touching up the paint job. The film’s production company is also working with the city to relocate trash cans and the Jatran stop for the duration of filming.

Two notes: please please please don’t “clean” the brick by sandblasting it! And second, I’m going to keep an eye out for the bus stop to go away so I can finally get the straight-on shot of the building I have always craved.

Thankfully, the Hattiesburg American and City Councilwoman Deborah Denard Delgado are sticking with the Eaton School story. I won’t rehash all that has come before but if you haven’t been keeping up with this renovation project gone wrong, see the first mention here in Feb 12’s News Roundup, and proceed to “Still No Roof on Eaton School” (Feb 22), “Progress of a sort in Hattiesburg” (March 31), and “Whistling Past Eaton” (May 28).

This week’s H-A article, “Battle continues over Eaton School,” reports on a meeting between Delgado and MDAH officials over renewed talk from Hattiesburg officials about possibly just demolishing the building. Structural engineers experienced with older buildings will be examining the school and giving their recommendations for a way forward, and let’s hope the structure isn’t as far gone as some city officials are making it seem.

All I can add to this is that after 6 months of watching this bizarre and increasingly frustrating project, the only real explanation I can come up with that makes any sense is that corruption at some level is protecting the contractor and/or architect from the consequences of their complete and utter negligence. Either that or complete and utter incompetence on the part of whoever at the city was supposed to be overseeing this project.

Well, this Roundup is kind of school-heavy, but I only report the news that’s out there. The Mississippi Press reported on a recent walk-through of the Art Moderne Pascagoula High School, in the middle of rehabilitation and change to apartments for older residents (“Pascagoula residents get up-close look at transformation of historic school“):

About 60 residents and city leaders braved the afternoon heat and humidity to get a look at the rebirth of a beloved landmark, the circa 1939 Pascagoula High School.

Madison-based developer Steve Nail led a walk-through of the school, which he is renovating into 57 independent-living apartments for seniors called Bayside Village. He said he plans to complete the project by December.

. . . .

Nail received a $300,000 Hurricane Relief Grant for Historic Preservation from the state Department of Archives and History to replace the windows and roof of the auditorium, but an undetermined amount of funds will need to be raised to restore its interior, he said.

Finally, to send us all off humming and happy, an article originally in the Oxford Eagle but reprinted in the Clarion-Ledger about the opening of a real-live grocery store in downtown Water Valley (“Water Valley grocery recalls days gone by“):

The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery opened its doors last month. Located on North Main Street in Water Valley, Van Beuren and her husband, Kagan Coughlin, renovated the building most commonly known to locals as “Mr. Parker’s Five & Dime” which was built around 1860. The 5,000-square-foot building had stood empty for several years when Coughlin decided to purchase it.

. . . .

It’s reminiscent of the old-fashioned store where the produce is grown locally, the cookies and bread are baked fresh every day and the milk is sold in glass bottles. It hearkens back to a time when candy was sold out of big glass jars and children were not only welcome in stores but encouraged.

Makes me want to run up to Water Valley and buy some candy.

Enjoy your weekend and stay cool, y’all!

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Categories: African American History, Churches, Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Grants, Historic Preservation, Jackson, News Roundups, Pascagoula, Prentiss, Recent Past, Renovation Projects, Schools, Water Valley

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